Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Incest, prostitution and dragons' eggs

As it turns out, moving house can be a bit of a faff. All of that putting things in boxes, and taking things out of boxes. It just isn’t fun, unless you’re using the boxes in some elaborate game of ‘Hide the shoe’. And no-one wants to play that with me after last time...

This somewhat off topic pre-amble readers, is partially my attempt to illicit your sympathy (‘Oh that poor Reluctant Geek! Bravely soldiering on with her column while chaos reigns around her!’) and partially because the other unfortunate thing about moving is that you find yourself temporarily lacking access to life’s essentials.

Several hours into actually hanging out at the new house I was practically rocking and twitching with the strain of internet withdrawal symptoms. How could I catch up with news as it happened? What if some crucial email was awaiting my attention? Even worse, what if someone had posted what they’d had for lunch on Facebook and I’d missed it? Clearly social death loomed. I had become the weird kid at school whose parents believe that hours of TV might not be the best thing for a developing mind, and who can’t therefore discuss the finer points of Neighbours versus Home and Away.

Of course, I still had the Blackberry, which went some way towards calming my addled mind. But no amount of shiny mobile technology could compensate for the sudden and alarming lack of access to a squillion or so TV channels. Regular readers will know that I’m not a ‘watch the Antiques roadshow just cos it’s on kind of girl’ but I do tend to devote myself to certain shows with all the passionate devotion of a novitiate nun. And there was one particular show that I was unreconcilled to missing.

I’ve raved about the Song of Ice and Fire series here before, so it may not surprise you to learn that I have been anticipating the Game of Thrones TV show with a fair amount of high pitched enthusiasm. And LARP/moving/work complications meant that in the end I was forced to throw myself upon the mercy of a friend, watching all of the first three episodes in some kind of orgiastic frenzy of fantasy TV appreciation.

And as it turns out, ‘orgiastic’ is a strangely apposite adjective, since one of Game of Thrones defining features is its ‘adult’ content. I was worried that they might have been tempted to go with the fantasy TV = kids TV precedent and just cut out vast swathes of the sex and violence. But then, there wouldn’t be much of a show left. So even if I was slightly alarmed by the fact that ‘boob count’ had made it into double figures by the end of episode one, I was vaguely relieved as well.

Naked ladies aside, did I like Game of Thrones? Do LARPers like plastic weapons?! The answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

For starters, it’s gorgeous to look at. The Wall is awe inspiring, and the gritty Northern vistas of Winterfell strike perfect chords of melancholy beauty. The books are epic in scale, and the TV show is really managing to capture some of that dynastic immensity, particularly in the jumps from location to location, Winterfell to Kings Landing to the Free Cities.

More than this though, Game of Thrones also encapsulates that dichotomy of ‘real’ fantasy that the books handle so well. Yes there are dragons, and Dire wolves, but there are also petty squabbles, characters with their own unique insecurities, and the practical minutiae of life to be contended with. This immediacy is striking and compelling. The misery of Catelyn’s haggard bedside vigil, in a cold and cheerless room, as wolves howl at her door is difficult and thus brilliant, to watch.

It helps that for the most part the characterisation is spot on. Dwarf or not, Tyrion Lannister is so witty and clever that he may just count as my new ‘weird crush’ (I’m really sorry Noel Fielding). Cersei is brilliantly, languorously resentful, with a sense of entitlement that is practically palpable. And Daenerys has all of the regal vulnerability that you could hope for.

With any luck, Game of Thrones will turn out to be a bit of a landmark for television, proving that there really is a market for ‘grown up’ fantasy. I want to watch TV that transports me to a different world, without any patronizingly pesky moral message getting in the way of the story. The bottom line is, it doesn’t always have to be about talking lions and magic boxes. Sometimes it’s about incest, prostitution and dragons' eggs too.

This week, Kate is off to stay in a Mongolian Yurt for a few days. Just call me Genghis.

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